Category: Loss (page 1 of 1)

Beginning of the End Day


[Yes, the pics are graphic. Look at them. Own them. Be glad they’re in black and white.]


Dead horses on a French street. Above: Dead American on a French Beach.| National Archives
Dead Americans on a Belgian street. | National Archives
Dead Germans on a French Street. | National Archives
Dead humans at K.L. Mulhausen. | National Archives
Dead US Coast Guard sailor on the USS Menges. Every thing suffers in war. | National Archives

As the 75th anniversary of the launch of Overlord arrives, it’s important to remember that it was just part of a very big picture, the beginning of the end of World War II. Up until that point, it had been a very long, very hard slog. But afterwards you could practically see directly from the beaches of Utah, Omaha, Sword, Juno and Gold on 6-Jun-1944 to the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on 2-Sep-1945. The war now had its expiration date.

No one cheered harder for the faint glimpse of the end than P.o.W.s in Japan, Korea and China. A few of those had survived four years of torture, starvation, beatings, illnesses such as beri-beri and even being bombarded by their own Army Air Force; they were the survivors of Wake Island, which resisted overwhelming Japanese invasion forces between 8-Dec and 23-Dec-1941. Had it not been for Overlord and Manhattan, those men would have died. Instead, they beat the odds thanks to Truman and Ike, Normandy and Trinity. (To quote directly: “Thank God for Harry Truman and thank God for the atom bomb!”)

I always think back to 1989, when as a newspaper reporter, I was privileged to meet just 11 of the Wake Island survivors, who gathered fairly often for small-scale reunions. That year, while working as a reporter who occasionally wrote some features about WWII vets, I got a call from a friend of mine, Marie Smith, (who had kept me sane during my cursed four months while we worked at <shudder> Wal-Mart), to tell me about an upcoming gathering of Wake Island survivors and their wives at the house of her and her husband John. These people were at that point closer than family, bound forever by what happened on a tiny atoll in the middle of a vast ocean.

The article below is what I wrote at the time, but there are two caveats: First, I apparently misspelled some names. I’ve corrected this at the bottom of this post with their bios. And second, this represents nowhere near everything I was told that day. I felt like an eavesdropper, someone who could watch and hear them, but who was so far removed from their time and experience that comprehension was impossible.

In 2016, the daughter of Tony Schawang of Falls City, NE, the man into whose soybeans Braniff 250 fell in 1966, told me an anecdote about her father, who landed on Omaha Beach 75 years ago. She said she once asked him about that day and he said, “Girlie, you don’t need to know anything about that kind of thing.” He was right.

A photographer took Tony’s picture the morning after the Braniff crash. He looks shell-shocked. I could only imagine the horror of seeing 42 dead people and a crashed airliner fall to earth in front of you. But after finding out that Tony had already seen way worse in 1944 made that picture clearer, more understandable. That’s a thousand-yard stare he has in that 1966 photo. I will now always wonder if he was seeing the wreckage of Braniff 250 … or the wreckage of Omaha Beach. Or a bloody mashing together of both. (As much as I respect Mr. Schawang, as the photos above attest, I disagree. We should always know, and see, the consequences of war.)

Now that we’re older, we can understand, and value, more of the meaning and reality of all this, but those Marines and their wives (and Tony Schawang) are now gone. We can’t have conversations with them just because we’re older and wiser and can now listen to them. They’re lost to history … and we’re much the poorer for it.

What do I now know? Don’t put D-Day in service to American (or British) exceptionalism or nationalism or patriotism, and don’t “thank” a veteran for his/her “service.” Man up, grow up and face up to the reality that no one wanted to “serve” us on the cold Normandy sand. They wanted to simply survive. The hard truth is that D-Day (and Wake Island) represented a failure. A failure to confront, contain and eliminate human anger, violence, and hatred in service to nationalistic ideologies in Japan, Germany and Italy. The failure to do that consumed, between 1914 and 1945 upwards of 150 million lives around the world. WWII soldiers HAD to “serve” at Omaha Beach because WE failed to protect THEM.

Instead of “Thank you for your service,” try, “We’re sorry you had to expend your blood, sweat, tears and toil to clean up our monumental failings.” Every time you meet one of the dwindling numbers of WWII veterans (and those of all the other magnificent little American wars we’ve fallen into), keep your mouth shut and your brain focused on peace. These “Greatest Generation” folks answered the bell and won the fight. We might not be as blessed next time.


Here are the original two Wake Island articles:

Memory Of WWII Still Vivid For Vets
(Part I of the Wake Island Story)

‘Considering the power accumulated for the invastion of Wake Island and the meager forces of the defenders, it was one of the most humiliating defeats the Japanese Navy ever suffered.’
—Masatake Okumiya, commander, Japanese Imperial Navy

By Steve Pollock
The Duncan (OK) Banner)
Sunday, August 13, 1989

MARLOW – It all came back to them this weekend – the stark terror of facing death while kneeling naked on a sandy beach the stinking hold of the prison ship; the brutality of the Japanese; the obliteration of youthful innocence.

They fought and bled for a two-and-a-half-square-mile horseshoe of an atoll in the midPacific called Wake Island. They were United States Marines and they did their duty.

There were 10 [sic] men of that Wake Island garrison at the Marlow home of John Smith this weekend. With Smith, they talked, drank and smoked their way through the weekend, laughter masking deeper emotions of brotherhood, camaraderie and painful memories.

In the Smith kitchen, their wives continued the latest of an ongoing series of therapy sessions, attempting to exorcise some of the demons of the last 44 years of their lives with the hometown heroes.


In 1941, with war inevitable, the U.S. government began construction of a series of defensive Pacific Ocean outposts, including Wake, designed to protect against Japanese aggression. They were a little late.

Little Wake atoll, with some 1,616 Marines and civilians huddled on its three islands, was attacked at noon, Dec. 8, 1941, several hours after Pearl Harbor.

The Marines knew war was possible, but “didn’t think the little brown guys had the guts to hit us,” one of them said.


Jess Nowlin’s hearing aid battery is getting a little weak as the afternoon wears on, but his memory and sense of humor are still sharp.

He said the Marines were going about their business when they heard the drone of approaching aircraft.

“We thought they were B- 17’s out of Pearl coming in to refuel. They weren’t. They broke out of a cloud bank at about 1,800 feet, bomb bay doors open. They tore us up,” Nowlin said.

The Japanese attacked from sea and air, but the Marines held out until Dec. 23; only 400 remained to defend 21 miles of shoreline from 25 warships and a fleet of aircraft. Surrender was inevitable.

Through a haze of cigarette smoke, Robert Mac Brown, a veteran not only of World War II, but of Korea and three tours of duty in Vietnam, remembers the post-surrender scene on the beach.

“We were stripped naked and they hog-tied us with our own telephone wire. A squall came through, but lasted only about 10 to 15 minutes. One of my clearest memories of the whole operation is of watching the water run down the bare back of the guy in front of me,” Brown said.

Japanese soldiers lay on the sand in front of the prisoners, swinging machine guns back and forth. The click of rounds being loaded into chambers was ominous. Fingers tightened on triggers.

“There was an argument between the landing force commander and a guy with the fleet. They screamed at each other in Japanese, arguing about whether to kill us or not,” Brown said.

The Marines made their peace and prepared to die.

The argument to make prisoners of the Marines and civilians won the day. The prisoners were allowed to grab what clothing they could to cover themselves.

And then a living hell began which would only be ended by the birth of atomic stars over southern Japan nearly four years later.


Taken off the island on small ships, the prisoners were forced to climb up the side of the Nittamaru, a former cruise ship pitching about on rough seas.

As the men walked back through the ship and down to the hold, the crew beat them with bamboo sticks, in a gauntlet of brutality.

Packed in the stinking hold, several hundred Marines and civilians had only one five-gallon bucket per deck to hold human waste. For the 14 days of the Nittamaru’s passage from Wake to Shanghai, they could barely move.

The cold of Shanghai was felt through their thin tropical khaki. It was January 1942. Robert Brown was to have married his girl on January 12. She married someone else.

“I thought you were dead,” she later told him.


From Shanghai, through Nanking, Peking, Manchuria and Pusan, Korea, the group journeyed in packed cattle cars to their eventual destination, a coal mine on the Japanese island of Hokkaido, where they dug in the shafts alongside third-generation Korean slave labor.

They were slaves themselves until August 1945.

“Thank God for Harry S. Truman and the atomic bomb,” several survivors said, as the others echoed that prayer.

They went home to heroes’ welcomes, but the public ”’never fully appreciated or understood what we did,” Nowlin said.


They’re much older now — in their 60’s and 70’s — and it was a family reunion of sorts; they claim to be closer than brothers. They don’t miss their “get-togethers” for anything in the world; Robert Haidinger traveled from San Diego with a long chest incision after recently undergoing a major operation.

As they gazed through the Oklahoma sunshine, they didn’t see the cow bam beyond the lovegrass rippling in the August breeze; it was a Japanese destroyer was steaming close in to end their lives all over again.

“It was awful, terrible; I wouldn’t have missed it for anything; you couldn’t get me to do it again for a billion dollars,” Nowlin summed it up.


The men: Tony Obre [sic], Fallbrook, Calif; Robert Haidinger, San Diego, Calif.; Robert Murphy, Thermopolis, Wyo.; Dale Milburn [sic], Santa Rosa, Calif.; George McDaniels [sic], Dallas, Texas; Jess Nowlin, Bonham, Texas; Jack Cook, Golden, Colo.; Robert Mac Brown, Phoenix, Ariz.; Jack Williamson, Lawton; Paul Cooper, Marlow, and John Smith, Marlow.

The cost of the defense of Wake Island, from Dec. 8 to 23, 1941: Americans: 46 Marines, 47 civilians, three sailors and 11 airplanes; Japanese: 5,700 men, 11 ships and 29 airplanes.


Wives Cope With Husband’s Memories
(Part II of the Wake Island Story)

By Steve Pollock
The Duncan (OK) Banner
Sunday, August 13, 1989

MARLOW – It all came back to them this weekend – fists lashing out during nightmares, the traumatic memories, the attempts to catch up on lost time.

The wives of 10 Wake Island survivors met in Marlow with their husbands this weekend for reasons of their own.

“We go through therapy every time we get together. We help each other with problems,” they said.

The wives: Florence Haidinger, Maxine Murphy, Opal Milburn [sic], Irene McDaniels [sic], Sarah Nowlin, Betty Cook, Millie Brown, Jo Williamson, Juanita Cooper and Marie Smith.


They did their own bit during World War II: The Red Cross, an airplane factory in Detroit, North American Aviation in El Segundo, Calif, Douglas in Los Angeles, the Kress dime store.

They married their men after the long national nightmare was finished, and their lives became entwined by one event: the Japanese attack on Wake Island Dec. 8-23,1941.

Since the first reunion of Wake survivors and their spouses in 1953, these women have been like sisters.

“We love each other, we’re closer than family,” Jo Williamson said.

In Marie Smith’s kitchen, therapy was doled out in a catharsis of talk little different from that of the men gathered on the patio. Talk is said to be good for the soul; these women heal great tears in theirs every time they see each other.

According to the wives, the men came home from the war, married, had children and tried to pick up where they left off.

They wanted to take care of their families and try to catch up. They were robbed of the fun times of their late teens and early 20’s, the women unanimously agree.

“They have also lived every day as if it were their last,” Sarah Nowlin said.


The men needed some help after their harrowing battle and brutal three -and-a-half-year captivity.

According to the women, doctors never realized therapy was in order: “They never got anything.”

One man lashed out with his fists during nightmares; after a few pops, his wife learned to leave the room. Another would slide out of bed and assume a rigid posture on the floor, arms and legs folded. Yet they have all been gentle men.

“I’ve never seen my husband harm or even verbally abuse anyone,” a wife said Reunions such as this help the men and women deal with life as they age. The youths of 16-22 are now grandfathers and grandmothers in their 60’s and 70’s.


Life today is a bit baffling to them.

Extremely proud of their men, the women have no patience with draft dodgers, flag burners, Japanese cars or foreign ownership of America.

They didn’t agree with the Vietnam war policy, but duty to country should have come first, they said.

“I didn’t want my son to go to Vietnam, but I would have been ashamed of him if he hadn’t,” one said.

The issue of flag burning stirs violent protest and emotion in the group: “Made in America”’ labels are on everything they buy.

And the younger generation does not enjoy the women’s confidence: “I don’t think they could do what we were all called on to do,” they agreed.

And as Marlow afternoon shadows grew longer, the women of Wake continued to cleanse their souls.


Updated bios (confirmed via findagrave.com):

• Cpl. Robert Mac Brown, USMC, Phoenix, AZ.
Birth: 1-Feb-1918.
Death: 21-Sep-2002 (age 84).
Buried: Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA.

• Sgt. Jack Beasom Cook, USMC, Golden, CO.
Birth: 18-Jun-1918, Okmulgee, OK.
Death: 20-Nov-1999 (age 81).
Buried: Fort Logan National Cemetery, Denver, CO.

• Sgt. Paul Carlton Cooper, USMC, Marlow, OK.
Birth: 30-Oct-1918, Richardson, TX.
Death: 18-Sep-1994 (age 75), Marlow, OK.
Buried: Marlow Cemetery, Marlow, OK.

• Cpl. Robert Fernand Haidinger, USMC, San Diego, CA.
Birth: 24-Nov-1918, Chicago, IL.
Death: 7-Mar-2014 (age 95).
Buried: Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego, CA.

• PFC Robert Bruce “Bob” Murphy, USMC, Thermopolis, WY.
Birth: 5-Oct-1920, Thermopolis, WY.
Death: 5-Feb-2007 (age 86), Hot Springs County, WY.
Buried: Monument Hill Cemetery, Thermopolis, WY.

• Pvt. Ival Dale Milbourn, USMC, Phoenix, AZ.
Birth: 23-Jul-1922, Saint Joseph, MO.
Death: 18-Dec-2001 (age 79), Mesa, AZ.
Buried: Skylawn Memorial Park, San Mateo, CA.

• PFC George Washington “Dub” McDaniel, Dallas, TX.
Birth: 23-Dec-1915, Stigler, OK.
Death: 14-Jul-1993 (age 77).
Buried: Stigler Cemetery, Stigler, OK.

• PFC Jesse Elmer Nowlin, USMC, Bonham, TX.
Birth: 9-Dec-1915, Leonard, TX.
Death: 13-Sep-1990 (age 74), Bonham, TX.
Buried: Willow Wild Cemetery, Bonham, TX.

• MSgt. Tony Theodule Oubre, USMC (ret.), Fallbrook, CA.
Birth: 17-Aug-1919, Loreauville, Iberia Parish, LA.
Death: 7-Feb-2005 (age 85).
Buried: Riverside National Cemetery, Riverside, CA.

• Pvt. John Clarence Smith, Marlow, OK.
Birth: 11-Mar-1918.
Death: 19-Jan-1994 (age 75).
Buried: Marlow Cemetery, Marlow, OK.

• Sgt. Jack Russell “Rusty” Williamson, Jr., USMC, Lawton, OK.
Birth: 26-Jul-1919, Lawton, OK.
Death: 12-Jul-1996 (age 76).
Buried: Highland Cemetery, Lawton, OK.


The wives (I couldn’t confirm the details for all of them):

• Juanita Belle Sehested Cooper
Birth: 5-Dec-1920, Marlow, OK.
Death: 28-Jul-2001 (age 80), Beaverton, OR.
Buried: Marlow Cemetery, Marlow, OK.

• Florence A Haidinger
Birth: 31-Dec-1934.
Death: 26-Sep-2014 (age 79).
Buried: Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego, CA.

• Irene McDaniel
Birth: 24-Nov-1918.
Death: 7-Mar-2004 (age 85).
Buried: Stigler Cemetery, Stigler, OK.

• Maxine Gertrude Gwynn Murphy
Birth: 10-Nov-1923.
Death: 4-Mar-1996 (age 72).
Buried: Monument Hill Cemetery, Thermopolis, WY.

• Marie A. Smith
Birth: 11-Feb-1929.
Death: 16-Nov-1997 (age 68).
Buried: Marlow Cemetery, Marlow, OK.

• Emily Jo Lane Williamson
Birth: 30-Mar-1924, Texas.
Death: 3-Jun-2007 (age 83), Comanche County, OK.
Buried: Sunset Memorial Gardens, Lawton, OK.

Where Are the Bodies? We Have an App for That.

Find the human (not migrants, not immigrants, not aliens, certainly not illegals. Just human. Human.) bodies. There are plenty to look for all over the Arizona Open GIS Initiative for Deceased Migrants map:

“Since January of 2001, over 3,000 undocumented migrants have died within the Pima County OME jurisdiction. The information presented is stark and perhaps unsettling. However, both Humane Borders and the Pima County OME believe that the availability of this information will contribute to fulfilling our common vision.”

AOGISIDM

Another Anniversary

It’s been TWELVE (12)!!! years??! Holy cow. In spite of all the special dogs (Feargal, Fergus, Fred, Roux, Sascha, Bosco, Goose, Tessa and now Charlie) we’ve had since Bayley crossed the Rainbow Bridge, the first dog who enters your life always leaves the most special imprint on your heart. And Bayley was indeed a special first one. So much so that we remember him and his anniversaries all the time. Here’s the post from 12 years ago, maudlin and sentimental and all that.

Bayley Murphey Beagle
20-Aug-1994 — 2-Mar-2007

Dear Bayley Murphey,

Thank you for being such a wonderful and good dog, a loving companion, for keeping us sane, for loving us unconditionally, for being such an incredibly important part of our lives for 12-and-a-half years. Thank you for putting up with all the picture-taking, ear rubbing, nail clipping, bathing, teefs-brushing and hugs and kisses. Thank you for curling up against us on cold, winter nights. Thank you being the touchstone of our lives. Thank you for being you.

We tried hard to give you a good life, full of all the things that good dogs such as you deserve. From the time of your puppyhood until today, you tried so hard to be good and please us, and you always did. We are richer for having had you in our lives, much, much poorer for your passing. Your suffering is over, now it’s time to run baying through the fields, chasing rabbits, rolling in squirrel pee, and lying under a tree gnawing a never-ending supply of beagle bagels.

Rest and sleep well, pookus. You leave a very large hole in our hearts and our lives.

Love,
Dad, Unca Frankie, and Unca David.

Steve Pollock

Anniversaries … so bittersweet. Sigh.

Puppy Bayley, Plano, October 1994.
Young Bayley being dignified, Plano, 1995.
Bayley napping in the sun, San Francisco, 2001.
Bayley and Frank in Ann Arbor, Autumn 2003.
Me and Bayley, Ann Arbor, Autumn 2003.

German Roofer Finds Message from Grandfather

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=12129102
German roofer discovers message in a bottle – written by his grandfather

A message in a bottle on the roof of a Goslar, Germany, cathedral was found by the grandson of the writer. An authentic lesson from history:

“On March 26, 1930, four roofers in this small west German town inscribed a message to the future. “Difficult times of war lie behind us,” they wrote. After describing the soaring inflation and unemployment that followed the First World War, they concluded, “We hope for better times soon to come.”

“The roofers rolled up the message, slid it into a clear glass bottle and hid it in the roof of the town’s 12th-century cathedral. Then they patched up the roof’s only opening.

“Eighty-eight years later, while doing maintenance work, 52-year-old roofer Peter Brandt happened upon the bottle. He recognised the letterhead of the receipt paper on which the note was written, as well as the name of one of the signatories: Willi Brandt – a shy, 18-year old roofing apprentice at the time of the note’s creation – was Peter’s grandfather.

“‘It was an exciting find,’ Peter Brandt said, given the improbability of discovering the bottle in the same roof his grandfather had repaired almost a century earlier. The letter, Brandt said, is from a dark chapter of Germany’s past. But its discovery offered an opportunity to reflect on the relative peace and prosperity of the present.

“Just a few years after his grandfather – who is not related to former West German chancellor Willy Brandt – signed the note, he enlisted as a soldier during World War II. He was later captured and imprisoned by the Russians. After returning to Goslar, Willi resumed his profession as a roofer but never talked about the war.”

New Zealand Herald

That the message survived the war shows that even amidst great destruction and degradation, something always survives. Humans press on, even if they have to leave their homes and try to find peace in hostile lands. Goslar’s mayor understands:

“The unemployment problems that Willi Brandt described have largely disappeared, according to Goslar Mayor Oliver Junk.

“Still, Goslar residents are moving to larger places to attend university or find work, said Ulrich Albers, head of the local archives. Stores and entire housing blocks stand empty in some parts of town.

“Three years ago, during the height of Germany’s refugee crisis, Junk made headlines when he proposed that Goslar take in additional refugees, citing the housing shortage in bigger cities. ‘It’s mad that in Göttingen they are having to build new accommodations, and are tearing their hair out as to where to put everyone, while we have empty properties and employers who are desperate for skilled workers,’ Junk told the Guardian newspaper in August 2015, referring to a nearby more populous city.

“Junk said he doesn’t regret that decision – and that the contents of Willi Brandt’s letter put it in a new perspective. ‘Every day, we’re discussing the many problems we have as a city that are allegedly very, very difficult. But with this letter from 1930, we can see that the many problems that we perceive aren’t really problems,’ he said.”

Ibid

As the line immortalized in Casablanca goes, “… it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”

Maybe not in the grand scheme of things perhaps, but I’m sure the problems Willi Brandt experienced on the Ostfront mattered to him … a great deal. And the problems he and others created on the Ostfront mattered to those they impacted even more.

Remembering the Past

Remembering Bill Schock on his 100th birthday … and the 52nd anniversary of Braniff 250 in Falls City. Also … feeling old from … time flying and stuff.

Since the AM2431 crash in Durango a few days ago appears to be from weather-related causes, never forgetting the lessons of BN250, as well as CO426, OZ809, EA66, PA759, DL191, and US1016 is as important as ever. Hope today’s flight crews are paying attention.

For Bill

Back in 2014, I included a chapter in my book detailing Bill Schock’s war experiences as they related to his reporting on the crash of Braniff International flight 250 in 1966.

The editors at McFarland, rightly but regretfully, suggested I delete the chapter since it was rather tangentially related to the subject, namely “Deadly Turbulence: The Air Safety Lessons of Braniff Flight 250 and Other Airliners, 1959-1966.” (Yeesh, that title.) They wanted 80,000 words; I gave them 96,000, so yeah, some cuts were needed—like the chapter about events which happened in 1966.

But for what it’s worth, in honor of Bill, here’s the deleted chapter. I hope it does him at least some honor.

Farewell, Bill. Thank you.

Update 05:00 26-Jun-18: I revised the chapter to correct a few annoying typos and to add some information, including original source documents for Bill’s war record. Click the link below again to get the revised version. Thanks!]

Read the chapter at this link:
«Deleted Chapter About Bill Schock from Deadly Turbulence by Steve Pollock»

A Final “Hangin’ Out the Warsh”

«This is Bill’s final column» out of countless ones he wrote over 71 years for the Falls City Journal.

With this column, he said farewell; the Journal has been sold and moved to a much smaller space in downtown Falls City which it had occupied until 1950.

It’s all extremely symbolic of the state of small-town journalism in the wayward America of the 21st century.

He wrote about one memory that I can personally relate to very much from my time at the Duncan Banner:

“A man came into the office and was pondering over the counter. Finally, he said, ‘I guess I’ll keep on another year. It ain’t the best paper in the world, but it is something to read.’ Another time a man brought an ad in for placement in the Journal and when he was told the price he said, ‘The old man gave me a better price.’ The clerk said, ‘Who’s the old man?’ He said ‘Bill Schock.'”

Falls City Journal

More Grief

This is kind of like how I feel about my (possibly four) upcoming surgeries: I don’t want to do this, but I have to, and I hate it.

Received a kind e-mail yesterday telling me of the death of Bill Schock of Falls City, NE, on Thursday evening, six weeks short of his 100th birthday. Cripes, 2018, you’re just not going to let up, are you? This bites very hard.

I’ve written and posted photos and documents here about Bill before. Without him, I would never have finished my first book; in fact, without him, there would have been really no book at all, because his photos and reporting about the crash of Braniff International flight 250 near Falls City in 1966 form the foundation of the book and provide witness to the events of the tragic night of 6-Aug-1966. He very graciously gave, with no expectation of anything in return, photos, archives, notes and the permission to use them.

But more, far, far more than that, he was what most of us can only aspire to be: a man of his generation who played an important part in his country’s fight against global fascism, and an exemplary journalist, the highest ideal of American newspaper reporting. At a time of a resurgence of fascism and a retreat into seeming death of (especially small town) American journalism, this is a particularly hard blow. It was inevitable. But still.

Bill fell last week, suffering cuts and bruises. But his hospital checkup revealed something he had, typically, kept quiet: he had end-stage liver cancer. He died Thursday night.

Also typically, he wrote just a simple six paragraph obituary for himself, leaving out … well, most of his singularly extraordinary life. His grandson fortunately took it in hand and summed up Bill’s amazing life in the «obituary that was actually published here by the funeral home»:

“Bill Schock, a war hero who helped save the world from fascism and a beloved pillar of the Falls City community his entire remarkable life, years ago penned his own obituary and tucked it away for safekeeping. “Papa,” as he was affectionately known by his grandchildren and great-grandchildren the past 50 years, used just six small paragraphs and half a sheet of paper in understating an iconic life worthy of a weighty tome, chapters of which could be mistaken for fiction. Words like “hero,” “beloved,” “pillar,” “remarkable,” and “iconic” were not included, nor even considered. There was no mention of “Bill Schock Blvd.” or the myriad of individual honors and awards earned either professionally, during a 70-year career at The Falls City Journal, or civically, when he served on the City Council, School Board, Hospital Board, Rotary Club, Veteran’s Service Committee and Nebraska Outstate Daily Publishers Association, just to name a few. It read only that “Bill has served on numerous boards.” It was that modesty that helped make Falls City’s love for Bill Schock rival only Bill Schock’s love for Falls City. …”

Dorr and Clark Funeral Home, Falls City, NE

Read the whole thing. Bill’s was a life well-lived, and for many people, including me, “icon” and “hero” are highly appropriate words. I typically don’t like the words “hero” or “heroism;” they’re trite and overused. Just my parents and my husband have always been my “heroes.” Beyond that? Well, I’ve found few that can exhibit real “heroism.” In fact, these days, you’re a hero if you spend a few hours suffering from a hangnail, or put a piece of trash in a garbage bin. Bill however; now there’s someone I can look up to as an actual hero.

He gave in, fortunately for us, to his family’s urging to write a memoir of at least his World War II experience. “Thrills, Chills and a Spill,” is fascinating reading. Very few copies exist, since he apparently didn’t think anyone else would be interested. (!!!!!) I fortunately found a .pdf of it and it’s pretty spellbinding. And very vintage Bill. He ends it with this summing up:

“As we leave Europe and the war behind us, I can’t help but think of the one year, nine months and 22 days spent here in history’s worst war, trying to do my small bit for my country. It sure as heck wasn’t fun and games!
“But like the feller says, I would’t do it again for a billion bucks. And, on the other hand, I wouldn’t take a billion bucks for what I’ve gone through.
“They just have to be the greatest experiences of my life.”

And the book is just one year, nine months and 22 days out of 100 years of his amazing life. The other 98 were exemplary of sacrifice, service and great good fun, from bombing the hell out of German fascists to listening to countless school board meetings. This one is devastating. Heart-breaking. Who can replace his extremely large shoes? I wish I knew.

Farewell, Bill Schock. Sir, we appreciate, thank and salute you, not only for your time in uniform, but also and especially for your long service out of it. You are keenly missed.

David's Obit

[Here’s an obit of sorts to go with the post I just added above. Writing obits is what I used to do professionally … when there’s a death in a community, the men mow the deceased’s yard and the women start gathering food. Me? I write obits. Sorry.]

David Andrew Garms, 50, died the morning of Wednesday, January 31, 2018, in his home in Hermitage, TN, from a sudden illness.

Arrangements are pending with the Hermitage Funeral Home. There will be no interment.

David was born March 31, 1967, in Chicago, IL, to Rosemary and Carl Garms. He spent his childhood in Eugene, OR, and his teen years in Melbourne, FL, where he graduated in 1984. He graduated with a perfect grade point average from the DeVry institute in Irving, TX, and received a B.S. in computer science. Besides those cities, he also lived in Pleasant Hill, San Francisco and Brentwood, CA; Denver, CO; Ann Arbor, MI; and Nashville and Hermitage, TN. He was a computer analyst in account security/fraud prevention for Wells Fargo Bank, working with teams in Charlotte, NC, and San Francisco.

Survivors include his mother, Rosemary Garms, of Hood River, OR; two brothers and sisters-in-law, M/M Allan Garms of Dallas, TX, and M/M Steve Garms of Hood River; his two housemates Frank Lester and Steve Pollock of Hermitage; and the five hounds of the house, Fergus, Bosco, Sascha, Roux and Goose. His father preceded him in death.

______________

“When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
-Khalil Gibran

Farewell David

Frank and I are beyond sad and shocked to have to announce the death this morning of our longtime housemate David Garms. (This is not about me, and apologies there are so many “I”‘s in here, but I canNOT believe I’m writing this.) David was 50. This was an unexpected sucker punch. And so I’m writing at length from a broken heart about him and his role in our lives.

David and I (and Frank from 2000) had been apartment/housemates for 24 years, since we met in 1994 in Dallas, when he was tired of homeownership in Carrollton and I needed to leave Oklahoma but wasn’t really in a position to pay big city rent on my own. We had shared apartments in Plano and San Francisco and the townhouse in Ann Arbor and the houses in Brentwood and Nashville. He had been here with us since 2009.

Most importantly, he was one of our best friends. We sometimes got on like a house afire. The two of us and then the three of us occasionally drove each other crazy. But somehow it seemed to just work out. He supported us, we supported him. I couldn’t balance a checkbook, he couldn’t mow a lawn. It worked.

In October 1994, I talked him into driving down to Kemp, Texas, out in the country, and picking out a seven-week-old beagle puppy. David is the one who picked his name, Bayley Murphey Beagle. Our history with hounds began with David and Bayley.

The hounds, including those we’ve lost, Bayley, Feargal and Fred, loved their Unca David. Fergus has been his shadow. Like us, they drove him nuts sometimes, but he adored and loved and spoiled them as much as we do. One of the last things he ever did was to order them a big ol’ box full of bags of Blue Dog Bakery biscuits, along with a bunch of Pill Pouches so Bosco would take his pain meds. It’s gonna hurt to get that delivery.

He was very private and kept things “very close to his vest.” I’m pretty sure he would not want me to write what I’ve just put down. Don’t care; needs to be done.

He worked from home for Wells Fargo account security/fraud protection. I usually do my sleeping between 7ish and noonish to 2ish. Ish. It kept me from bothering him while he conferenced and kept the dogs up there so their barking at squirrels wouldn’t be heard from Charlotte to San Francisco.

Today I came downstairs and helped Sascha outside, then brought some stuff down to the laundry room next to David’s room. I rounded the corner and saw his feet in his doorway. Piecing loose ends together and from what his coworker told me, we think he got up at 6 a.m., sent a work e-mail at 7:01, then was online with work until 8. He then appears to have gone to shower and dress for a conference call at 9, but never called in. I found him lying on his bedroom floor at 12:20. It does not appear he fell. He looked asleep at first. While I was CPR-trained for teaching, I had no idea he was in trouble. I yelled his name and felt for a pulse but nothing. While 911 was ready to help and first response was enroute, I pretty much knew I was too late. That will haunt the rest of my life.

I tell this long story for this purpose: Not the usual tell your loved ones you love them thing, he knew all that. No, I share it because we’ve begged him to go to a doctor for a checkup for at least the last three years. The last time he had seen a doctor? May 1997. Almost 21 years. I now wish I had handcuffed him to the Jeep and driven him to our primary care. I usually nagged him to do things that he needed to get done. I wasn’t successful on this one and it’s too late.

Yes, tell your loved ones you love them, hug ‘em hard, etc., etc. But sometimes … you need to be a bully and aggressively advocate for their needs … to them OR for them. There were issues and warning signs, but for reasons of his own I’ll keep to myself, he refused.

Frank got here within 30 minutes, but the dogs were barricaded outside for three hours while the police/detectives/medical examiner processed the scene. They are stressed and feeling it. We’re pretty sure Fergus beagle was in there on David’s bed when it happened, that was his usual thing, to spend hours sleeping while Unca David worked. Fergus seemed stressed and was shaking this evening. He seems fine now. We’re going to miss David terribly and this upends our lives beyond what we can even process. We were getting prepared for losing Bosco (who is still hanging in there as tough as can be), but we were not prepared for something of this magnitude. Not even close.

All of our friends have been beyond supportive of us and we appreciate that so much. Our neighbors were here hugging me within minutes and they’re planning food deliveries already. Carol Miller Stewart … superwoman. Also here within a half hour and held my hand with all the details and funeral home stuff. Beyond grateful.

But please also extend thoughts and prayers to David’s mother, Rosemary Garms, who last week, while on the phone with David, fell and broke her hip and is hospitalized in Hood River, Oregon. David was her baby, the youngest of her three sons. His father Carl died a few years ago of cancer. She and David talked pretty much every day for hours. His middle brother Steve will be here from Oregon in the next day or so. He too is devastated and has his hands really full. And David’s oldest brother Allan, in Dallas, had a similar heart attack six years ago, also at age 50; his wife happened to be in bed with him when he began having issues and she got the chance to keep Allan alive with CPR until help arrived. So your support for us is wonderful, but please add all of David’s family … they are very close and really hit every bit as hard as us.

I’m numb and scatterbrained. I’m also never at a loss for words and that’s why I’m rambling on. The writer in me just goes on autopilot. So apologies for the length if you’re still reading. And thank you.

My god, David … one of my four “brothers from other mothers” along with Stan Bedford and Jay McGinnis and Tim Cronian! We’re gutted. We love you so much and are very grateful for all you did for us. Rest easy and hug Bayley and Feargal and Fred for us!

[And thank you each and every one of you. Your love and support comes through and helps us all. It is greatly appreciated. I wish I could hug all of you.]

Same Here


In Which I Join in on a Hashtag, God Help Me!

There’s this thing that has been closely guarded for going on 40 years in 2018. It’s my secret. So as it hits its 40th birthday in our new year, I decided it’s time to tell the world.

#MeToo.

There. It’s out. More is coming.


[Text by HawkEye. Photo by Mihai Surdu via Unsplash.]

American Carnage: 10-Nov-17

Peckerwoods!

What we learned this week:

• Comedian Louis CK and Crusading Crazy Ass Roy Moore were accepted into that venerable old boy’s club, that newly-open-to-didlers-from-outside-the-church institution, The Ancient and Venerable Order of Priests Expecting Complete, Knightly Exoneration; Rewarded With Oodles Of Dancing Students (a.k.a. “P.E.C.K.E.R.W.O.O.D.S.”) Golf and Country Club. Greeting them at the door was the Ancient and Venerable Third Assistant Vice President Clarence Thomas, who treated the new initiates to pubic hair-laced Coke cans and asked Roy Moore if Moore was interested in buying him, because living conditions in “free” Washington D.C., are highly overrated.

• Corey Feldman is still alive. And also Corey Feldman knows lots of Hollywood people who will be applying for membership at Peckerwoods G&CC very soon. This has Corey quite frightened.

• 150-year-old former presidents need help to take a piss, but are still able to feel up female reporters and tell them dirty jokes, both of which are done in front of former First Ladies.

• White gay men are no longer welcome in the gay rights movement because the whiteness of their skin means they are privileged, cisgendered and non-intersectional. Henceforward, when we’re getting the shit beaten out of us at school; can’t afford college; get harassed or beaten or shot by the police for kissing our boyfriends in public parks; gulp down the handful of toxic drugs we fought to get in the 90s while watching our mothers scour the kitchen sink after getting a glass of water lest God’s disapproval in the form of the AIDS plague will be visited on her house and infect her innocent grandchildren; spending the 54th year of life with our families berating us for our lifestyle choice and allowing demons to inhabit our bodies; well, we cannot possibly have any contribution or role in the LGBTQ community. Because our skin color is white. And that means we cannot participate, question, discuss, converse and sure as hell can’t culturally appropriate anything from anybody. No alliances with us are welcome. No matter how many suicide attempts we committed during our teen years because we are total fags, it counts for nothing. You must be black, female, lesbian, transgendered before you are allowed to participate in efforts to secure civil rights for LGBTQ, etc. Your skin color is white, so you must be a white supremacist Nazi dedicated to keeping people of color down. “Intersectionality is a bitch, white boys; paybacks are hell and Karma gonna bite you in your lily white highly privileged asses.”

• That Kathy Griffin is a bit off her nut though, isn’t she?

• John Hillerman is dead at 84. Yet, Justin Bieber and Joel Osteen still walk the earth. Osteen’s Mercedes-bestowing god sure has a wicked sense of humor.

• There seems to have been some baseball played. Something about a World Series won by perennially losers the Houston Astros. We wouldn’t know, we weren’t paying attention.

• New England Patriots player and convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez’s brain was dissected and shown to be the worst case of NFL of the brain ever recorded. Oh, this just in, it was CTE of the brain. We regret (not) the error.

• O.J. Simpson will continue to haunt our lives even if he actually dies. This week: Tossed out of the Cosmopolitan in Vegas for being … the only intoxicated person in the casino. The Juice owes the Cosmo a favor; that place is a cesspool of skeezy. Getting banned from it for life probably will save his life (or perhaps a few courses of penicillin). We were at the Vdara/Cosmo complex in 2014. The swimming pool still gives me nightmares. And hives.

• They’re remaking/updating/relaunching a lot of old 90s TV series for no apparent reason than, like the Simpsons, the creative well in Hollywood dried up decades ago, probably about the time Carol Burnett packed it in on her variety show, which was was always packed with incredible talent. A Roseanne reboot and a Will and Grace reboot we did not need. Also, The Simpsons must die; each episode is worse than the previous, a race to a bottom we cannot make out but we know it’s there. Family Guy is suffering while its creator is buzzing around the universe, so it’s probably also time that James Woods whips out his AR-15 and ends the show’s life for good and all as well. Bobs Burgers is still reasonably fresh, but it may be peaking now. (And by the way, just ’cause I’m a white faggot does NOT mean I should have to watch the Will and Grace reboot. My intersectionality about class, wealth, New York City snobbery and poor body image means this show deeply oppresses me, even if it may have influenced some people decide not to shoot our faggoty white asses when we got legally married by the U.S. Supreme Court. Whatever may be, I’d still prefer old Lucy Show episodes to most of this dreck.

• Tuesday’s election seemed to be a case of buyer’s remorse, wherein the guy who bought a pink Ford Fiesta with the undercoating package and Scotch-guarded seats wakes up after a long nightmare and wants to toss the Pink Fiesta off the nearest cliff, but knows there’s just no way that’s going to happen. So instead, he settles for going to the nearest Ben and Jerry’s and consuming 23 different punny flavors, coincidentally imbibing enough “RoundUp” (TM) to shrivel his gonads to the size of B.B.s And while waiting for his blood glucose numbers to fall below 1000, stares at the Pink Fiesta and thinks, “I hate this fucking century and this fucking country and powerful people who diddle powerless people and get away with it. Every. Single. Time.” And then, feeling better and on the way home, the wheels on his pink Fiesta fall off for the 45th time that week.

• Speaking of Pink Fiestas, the anniversary of Trump’s ascendance to power is appropriately the same as Kristallnacht and the infamous “Stab in the Back,” whereby leftists and Jews back home knifed German troops on the Western Front in the back just right when they were about to end the whole damn war victoriously, causing the Kaiser to abdicate and the nation to find itself in need of rescuing by an Austrian corporal named Adolf Hitler. Putting the facetiousness aside for a moment, the 79th anniversary of Kristallnacht should be looked upon as an abject lesson about what happens when you allow hate, ignorance, false equivalency, and frat boy snark mindsets to take over entire countries. But that would require Americans to actually absorb reality and study history, two things we are adamantly refusing to do at this moment. Gott Strafe Amerika! And he’ll do it too.


[Text by HawkEye. Photo by Dawn Armfield via Unsplash.]

The Final Passing of American Journalism

“And that’s the way it is …”

Walter Cronkite

It feels as if the last bit of actual journalism in America is now dead.

In «What We Lose With Cronkite’s Death», Bruce Maiman sums it up pretty well:

“… it’s a reminder, too, that the broadcasting style and journalistic credibility that Cronkite represents also seems to be fading into history. Cronkite’s death was inevitable rather than sad, but what is sad is that no one has picked up his mantle to deliver the news in a fashion that doesn’t glorify something or someone, or trash something or someone. Cronkite set a standard for conveying the news that was at once warm, measured, dignified, good humored and uncompromising.”

He also notes one of my favorite stories about Cronkite:

&#8220In her autobiography, «A Desperate Passion», physician and Nuclear Freeze activist Helen Caldicott tells the story of when she met Cronkite and his wife Betsy at a dinner one night: “Walter amazed me by saying that if he had his way, he would remove all U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe. “What would the Russians do then, roll over people with their tanks?” he asked. I said: “The American people love you, Walter. Why don’t you tell them that?” He laughed and replied, “I’m only loved because they don’t know what I think.””

The ever-excellent Glenn Greenwald, writing in Salon, touches on all of this in «Celebrating Cronkite While Ignoring What He Did»:

“Tellingly, his most celebrated and significant moment — Greg Mitchell says “this broadcast would help save many thousands of lives, U.S. and Vietnamese, perhaps even a million” — was when he stood up and announced that Americans shouldn’t trust the statements being made about the war by the U.S. Government and military, and that the specific claims they were making were almost certainly false. In other words, Cronkite’s best moment was when he did exactly that which the modern journalist today insists they must not ever do — directly contradict claims from government and military officials and suggest that such claims should not be believed. These days, our leading media outlets won’t even use words that are disapproved of by the Government.”

Cronkite, and the pathetic remains of American journalism, will be laid to rest on Thursday.

And THAT, my friends, is the way it is, on this Sunday, 20-Jul-09, the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing.

And Then There Was Maude …

Sad news today: «Bea Arthur passed away at 86 from cancer»:

‘Beatrice Arthur, the tall, deep-voiced actress whose razor-sharp delivery of comedy lines made her a TV star in the hit shows “Maude” and “The Golden Girls” and who won a Tony Award for the musical “Mame,” died Saturday. She was 86. Arthur died peacefully at her Los Angeles home with her family at her side, family spokesman Dan Watt said. She had cancer, Watt said, declining to give details.

‘Maude” scored with television viewers immediately on its CBS debut in September 1972, and Arthur won an Emmy Award for the role in 1977. The comedy flowed from Maude’s efforts to cast off the traditional restraints that women faced, but the series often had a serious base. Her husband Walter (Bill Macy) became an alcoholic, and she underwent an abortion, which drew a torrent of viewer protests. Maude became a standard bearer for the growing feminist movement in America.’

We are diminished by her loss. RIP.

Farewell, Pookus.

BayleyChewingABone

Bayley Murphey Beagle
20-Aug-1994 — 2-Mar-2007

Dear Bayley Murphey,

Thank you for being such a wonderful and good dog, a loving companion, for keeping us sane, for loving us unconditionally, for being such an incredibly important part of our lives for 12-and-a-half years. Thank you for putting up with all the picture-taking, ear rubbing, nail clipping, bathing, teefs-brushing and hugs and kisses. Thank you for curling up against us on cold, winter nights. Thank you being the touchstone of our lives. Thank you for being you.

We tried hard to give you a good life, full of all the things that good dogs such as you deserve. From the time of your puppyhood until today, you tried so hard to be good and please us, and you always did. We are richer for having had you in our lives, much, much poorer for your passing. Your suffering is over, now it’s time to run baying through the fields, chasing rabbits, rolling in squirrel pee, and lying under a tree gnawing a never-ending supply of beagle bagels.

Rest and sleep well, pookus. You leave a very large hole in our hearts and our lives.

Love,
Dad, Unca Frankie, and Unca David.

Farewell, Artemis the Sweet

Picture of Artemis of the Hunt

The rainy weather here in Ann Arbor is appropriately weepy this morning. It is with a very heavy heart that I have to note the passing of Artemis, the sweetest, most wonderful black lab in the world.

Artemis’ dad, Don, called me this morning from Oklahoma City with the news that she left us Friday after an exhausting battle against cancer. She was 14.

Artemis of the Hunt was born in Bristow, OK, on 23-Dec-89. I remember when they brought puppy Artie home to Duncan; she was so sweet, with those big paws and gangly legs. We had so much fun. I always referred to her as my one and only girlfriend. It was extremely sad when they moved away in 1992; but we still got to see each other fairly often even as I moved around the country, and she would sometimes sleep with me on the twin guest bed, which was always a fun experience having a very large and heavy lab jump on your legs in the middle of the night. I miss that feeling.

We saw Artie-moose last August, on our way from San Francisco to Ann Arbor. She was as sweet as ever, just showing the effects of her age. She still was able to jump into the back seat of Don’s car when they got ready to go somewhere, happy and eager to get on the road. It was wonderful to see that again.

She was always wonderful with Bayley, only once putting him in his place (and he certainly needed it on that occasion). He’s not much on other dogs, but with Cousin Artemis, he was pretty content.

She spent quite some time in northern Michigan near Traverse City with her mom, Linda. Galloping through the forests and swimming and canoeing and sailing, she always had a spectacular time up there and loved Michigan.

I’ll never forget the joyful abandon she displayed when jumping into water. My fondest memories of her are when she jumped full-tilt into Clear Creek Lake near Duncan while we were sailing, while fetching sticks. And the shower of water that cascaded off of her as she shook herself after getting out invariably doused everyone and everything within miles. Those were grand days.

But now, after a very full and long life of giving everyone around her such joy and happiness, she’s finally at rest, no longer in pain, having been the bestest black lab ever.

And we send warm hugs and sympathy to her dad, Don, and to Jean and to Linda, who will all miss her terribly.

Thank you, Artemis. We’ll fill the holes in our hearts with the wonderful memories you gave us. Sleep well, my girlfriend.

Some Sad News

Just got an extremely sad e-mail from Donpy … Artie-moose isn’t doing well. Sudden tumor growth, bad cancer. Should know on Wednesday whether she’s going to make it. But since she’s approaching 13, it doesn’t look good.

I just burst out bawling tonight and am still kinda crying. It’s extremely sad. She was the best puppy dog in the whole world and the sweetest. And it’s horrible for Don and Jean … and Linda. But it also reminds me of Bayley and the growths he has and that he’s 9.5 years old.

It had been an extremely good day … scored 720 verbal and 570 math on the GRE this morning. Other nice things had happened too. Birthday cards and $41 from Mom and Dad. David told me of all the nice DVDs and presents he sent us. And so on.

But this is kind of a kick in the gut. Tragic.